When is a Novel too Christian?

I just finished a Christian romance novel, and didn’t like it. It was too Christian.

I had no objection to the characters going to church or discussing their beliefs. What bothered me was every time they prayed (which was often); the prayers were recorded, verbatim.

This would not have been a problem if the person praying had said something interesting in their prayers, like revealing how they felt about someone or dropping some information only they knew. No, these were fairly standard prayers, whether for someone’s healing or even as grace said before a meal.

And some of them were long. I know the font on my kindle is a little large, but one of these prayers was full five pages.

That was five pages of nothing happening to move the story forward. No new information, no new conflict, no resolution. It ruins the story.

So why did the author feel we needed to read those prayers?

Why, indeed. It gets to the heart of the question of why people write Christian fiction.

I know some see it as an evangelistic method, a way to introduce people to Christianity who wouldn’t learn of it in any other way.

Which is why lengthy prayers are included, or many Christian novels have what seems to be obligatory conversion scene, complete with a summary of the basic gospel message and a prayer. Even worse is when the characters leave their own voices behind and start talking pastor-ese.

Now I understand why I skip those scenes when I’m reading. They interrupt the flow of the story, and often feel contrived. This is why I feel that a lot of Christian fiction falls short of what it could be.

The best handling of a conversion I’ve come across was in William Woodall’s The Last Werewolf Hunter. The main character slowly embraced Christianity, and didn’t inflict his prayers on the readers. In bits and pieces, he related his reflections and growing beliefs (all in his own words and not Christian clichés), until he made the decision to convert. It all fit with the plot and felt natural.

Many Christian authors might say that telling people how to become Christians is the most important thing they hope to accomplish through their writing. But by boring the reader with long prayers or doctrinal discussions that distract from the plot the story, they are letting their readers down. They’ve promised an entertaining read and that’s what should be delivered.

And isn’t that important, too? To deliver what we promise. We should be able to create great stories that carry a great message.

Anyone care to chime in? Am I completely off the mark?

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